Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Core Atheist Beliefs Part 2

Last post discussed how atheists must submit to believing in only the physical world.  This post aims at showing how atheists are left to believe in a world of make believe, consisting of only their own personal desires, while left devoid of ultimate meaning, truth, and purpose.

2.  Relativism.  The second claim is that everything is relative (meaning, morality, human worth, etc.).  Critical thought shows that this is immediately contradictory because the statement that everything is relative must be a relative statement and therefore not always true, or it is an absolute truth and therefore disproves itself.  Within the idea that everything is relative, there are three domains that I think are important to understand and that people do not treat as though they are relative, no matter how committed they are to relativism.  When examining their presuppositions, you will always find an absolute which the rest of their views rest upon.
A. Truth & Reason.  Without God, we can never even claim to know the truth about anything.  For all we know, our whole experience of life could be nothing more than an illusory byproduct of a chemical reaction.  It also might be possible that we are living in the Matrix or some other fantasy realm.  Reason also becomes suspect because we cannot assume an intelligent designed that created ordered, rational, coherent universe.  If human reason is nothing than the product of chance, with no intelligence behind its creation, how can it be trusted to lead to right answers?  Without presupposing God, we cannot trust reason and there is no truth for which we use reason to uncover. 
Additionally, why would truth matter?  If someone claims to be an atheist because it is true that God does not exist (which isn't try, but atheists think it is), then the questions becomes why does truth matter?  If truth is relative, then couldn't it be relatively true that there are things that are more important than truth?  For instance, numerous studies show that religious people are generally happier and more fulfilled in life.  Couldn't that be considered more important than truth? 
B. Meaning. If meaning is relative then everything is essentially meaningless. Our words, thoughts, actions, beliefs, and the whole of the universe becomes meaningless.  A person's strongly held atheistic views become meaningless as does their view that science or evolution is true.  Even if it's true, it doesn't matter because there is no meaning in truth.  There is no more meaning to a person's life than there is for the life of a monkey, dog, amoeba, or even a rock. From a relativistic perspective, meaning is just an illusion.
C. Morality. Evolution offers an acceptable explanation about how we evolved a moral framework, but it doesn't tell us if moral decisions are right or wrong.  From a relativist perspective of morality, the terms right and wrong have no meaning.  However, relativists still try to claim that their views of morality are somehow better, but they have no absolute standard to use to determine if their views are better.  For instance, we know that 2+2=4.  That is the standard we have for right and wrong, better or worse.  If I say 2+2=3, I am still wrong, but I am close.  On the other hand, if someone says that 2+2=246, then they are way off.  Being wrong but close may be much better in an engineering mistake than if someone was way off.  From a relativistic perspective 3 is just as good of an answer as 246 because there is no standard of what is right, but somewhat hypocritically, they try to claim that their individual answer is better than that of Christians, government, prior historical cultures, and even other atheists.  In an attempt to have a consistent view of morality, they often refrain from claiming to be right, but instead they use other adjectives such as better, complex, civilized, cultured, robust, wise, or helpful, etc. to try to advance their particular moral framework.  Unfortunately, these adjectives still assume some sort of absilute standard of right and wrong.  Why is complex better than simple if there is no right answer?  Something cannot be better if there is no correct answer for it to be closer to. 
Practically speaking, if morals are relative, then we can take any position on moral choices, and then use any reason to justify it.  This is why atheist led governments (Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Mussolini, Kim Jong Ill, Castro, and many more) have been responsible for more pain, suffering, death, and destruction than all other governments throughout history.  One potential explanation for this is that it cannot be assumed that people have inherent self-worth, therefore, people only have worth or value if they earn it. Atheists may want to deny this, but there is no logical reason for their position. If they claim humans have any kind of intrinsic value, it is merely because underlying that claim is their emotionally driven opinion.  It is not a decision driven by reason.
Many atheists are good people by the worlds standards and often highly intelligent.  Unfortunately, many of them are unwilling to follow their beliefs to their logical conclusions or unwilling to critically examine their presuppositions (or even admit that they have presuppositions).  We need to recognize and use our emotions, but our emotional reactions should stem from a foundation of reason.  Atheists are forced into the opposite position where their emotions serve as the foundation for their reasoning.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Core Atheist Beliefs Part 1

Atheism is often thought of as nothing more than lacking a belief in God, with no inherent presuppositions or beliefs attached to it.  For some atheists, this might be true, but these people might be better classified as agnostics.  To hold a true atheistic worldview, defined by the belief that God does not exist, one must make certain claims about the universe, which often leads to problematic conclusions.  These claims are necessary as a means to replace God or to try to fill the void that is created by getting rid of God.  The two main core beliefs of atheism are materialism and relativism, but underlying each of those beliefs are various other assumptions or positions.  Materialism is discussed in part 1 and relativism is discussed in part 2.

1. Materialism.  This is the view that everything in the universe is made of or comes from matter or energy.  This view must be automatically assumed by atheists, but it is a view that is widely debated philosophically.  I would even go so far to say that the creation of the universe must depend on a nonmaterial source, making materialism an incorrect and logically indefensible position (more on this later).  Initially, it may seem as though holding a materialistic view might be normal and not up for debate, but here are some of the implications of it, from the impossible to the hardly controversial.

A.  Origins.  The most difficult and what I see as most irrational belief one must hold to maintain a atheistic/materialistic worldview is the belief that the universe was created out of nothing.  If God did not create the universe, then there are only two options to choose from regarding its creation.  The first one is that it created itself...out of nothing.  No matter, energy, light, or time.  NOTHING.  The impossibility of this should be apparent.  If nothing exists, then there is nothing there to create something, and no existence of time in which something could change from nothing into something.

The second option is a little more specious, but equally impossible, and that is that the universe is not created, but has always existed.  This argument doesn't deny the Big Bang, only suggests that the Big Bang was caused by another universe (or other physical cause), which was created by another universe, and so on ad infinitum.  There is a logical and physical flaw with this view.  If time has always existed, then there was been an infinite amount of time between now and the beginning, which means now would never have arrived.  It would be similar to counting on a timeline from negative infinite to zero (if now equals zero) or any number really.  The other problem is that with an infinite amount of time, all the energy in the universe(s) would basically run out (second law of thermodynamics).

Finally, there is the ridiculousness that would occur with probabilities.  If there were an infinite amount of time, then everything that could possibly happen will and has happened...an infinite number of times.  For instance, if the probability that a universe has the conditions necessary to sustain life is 1 out of 100 (although people believe its much less than that, more like 1 out of a trillion or more, but that is not important for now) then the probability that a non-life sustaining universe is 99 out of 100.  So this means that there will be 99 non-life sustaining universes to every one that has life; however, if time is infinite, then there is an infinite number of life sustaining universes and an infinite number of non-life sustaining universes.  There is an infinite number of both, but somehow, there have been more non-life sustaining universes than life sustaining universes.  Still more ridiculous is that there is the possibility of going against the odds.  This means that it is possible that there are more life-sustaining universes that have been created than non-life sustaining universes and now there are two contradictory possibilities that must be true at any given point in time, but only one can be.
    
B.  Evolution.  I am not arguing for or against evolution, but merely pointing out that if a person holds a materialistic view of the world, they must accept evolution has occurred and is a completely naturalistic process.  No divine guidance or help at any point in time.  For many, this is not a problem, but when you start to investigate the problems, gaps, and inconsistencies in evolutionary theory, it becomes clear that many people (e.g. Richard Dawkins) who so vigorously defend evolution, are doing so in an attempt to defend their worldview rather than a scientific theory.  In other words, the materialists who claim to be unbiased or "free" thinkers, have biases just like everyone else.

C. Supernatural.  There exists many beliefs regarding supernatural beings or things.  Some accepted by Christians and some not.  Other than God, other supernatural forces that people believe in include ghosts, karma, precognition or extra sensory perception, angels, demons, other spirits, rebirth or reincarnation, astrology, fortune telling, and the human soul.  Many atheists do not have a problem not believing in these things, but others strongly cling to one or some of these, especially the idea that people have a soul.  If there is no God, there is no logical explanation for any of these supernatural beings or phenomena, making it irrational and inconsistent to believe in even one of these things if God's existence is denied.
There are certainly variations between atheists on the specifics of these beliefs, but the general views presented here are absolutely necessary and fundamental for anyone who claims to be an atheist and wants to be consistent in their beliefs.